Re: Crossing the language threshold was Re: First Language

Ralph T. Edwards (
Thu, 31 Aug 1995 15:17:37 GMT

In article <>, wrote:

> In article <>
> (Ralph T. Edwards) writes:

> >The fact that "run" can be used as a noun or a verb does not
necessarily imply
> >that the word is stored only one place, or that there are not distinct brain
> >adaptations to support the different classes of words. Or did you have
> >something else in mind?
> Something else.
> There are languages in which the predicates we call "adjectives" in
English are
> inflected like verbs, rather than like nouns as in Indo-European languages.
> There are languages in which states or events of nature are expressed as verbs
> rather than as nouns.
> So I don't have in mind homonymies, but actual differences in category
> inventory.

This seems more like differing category boundaries than truly differing
categories. But it raises an interesting question that I confess I'm
of, to what extent are word categories universals? Do all languages have
categories corresponding to words (or subwords) of the follwoing types?

fast (adv.)
in (or corresponding inflection)

and whatever else you want. (all picked for likelihood of inclusion in an
primitive vocabulary.)

> >>>Of course even if language acquisition is the speciation event for modern
> >>>humans, it may have occurred in more than one place, and then merged.
> >>Why "merged"?
> >Because if the groups did not merge, then there would have been only one
> >origin of language (that survived), and I was considering the possibility
> >that there were multiple origins.
> That's why I asked.
> Why do you assume that multiple origins have not survived?

I think we're talking about two different things. I'm talking about
the point at which humans first acquired speech and the brain, vocal tract, and
perhaps auditory adaptations to support it.
I presume that this was more than 100,000 years ago.
I don't presume anything about whether there were one or multiple
origins, and looking at current language won't tell us anything about
whether there were one or many origins 200,000 years ago. I did express an
opinion that one origin seemed simpler. That's an OPINION not a assumption.

When I say merged, I'm implying that current physical adaptations for
speech are a common attribute of modern humans that either had one origin,
or resulted from the merger of multiple origins. If there was one origin
for the physical adaptations it implies to me one origin for the cultural
aspect of language as well, if you know what I mean (the software as opposed
to the hardware). I don't assume one or multiple origins.

R.T.Edwards 908 576-3031